24 November 2001
GE NIGHTMARE IN THE SOUTH - PHILIPPINES/INDIA
confusion and complexity reign as GE crops hit the South:
"Aside from the high walls, a watchtower and guard-houses would be built in the four corners of the trial farm... Monsanto would employ barangay residents as security guards of the trial farm backed by a civilian volunteers' organization." (item 1)
"A Gujarat court has issued arrest warrants against officials of the firm which is said to have sold transgenic cotton seeds to farmers" (item 2)
"Prima facie it seemed that the company had been able to sell the seed because of the inaction and apathy on the part of the authorities concerned in pursuance of what seemed to be a scam..." (item 3)
"The Union environment ministry is apprehensive that the Bt cotton seeds may have also been sold in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, besides Punjab." (item 4)
"The farmers or the seed supplying agencies were not given any idea about the nature or characteristics of the transgenic seed, the agriculture official said"(item 4)
"Tell me which state in the country has the expertise to detect the use of genetically modified seeds? In Gujarat, Bt cotton could be detected because there was a fight between rival companies, which prompted one of them to report to the government." (item 5)
1. MONSANTO TO STEP UP SECURITY AT PHILIPPINE BT FARM
2. BT COTTON SEED SELLERS FACE ARREST
3. INDIA: NGO COURT ACTION
4. Bt cotton seeds sold in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, besides Punjab?
5. OFFICIALS YET TO COTTON ON TO BT COTTON SPECTRE
1. Monsanto to step up security measures at Philippine Bt farm - Asia
Pulse November 23, 2001
SANTOS CITY, Nov 23: A stricter security measure would be put in place by a multi-national seed firm here when it undertakes another field trial of the controversial Bacillus Thuringensis (Bt) corn... The trial farm would be located on a half-hectare lot which will be sealed - off using double eight-foot walls using plain iron sheets and barbed wires at five meters apart. A more secured trial farm is being set up, Parreno said, to prevent what had happened to a Bt trial farm in Tampakan, South Cotabato, which was destroyed by members of militant groups in August, this year. Paraiso barangay chair Sergio Morales assured that the Tampakan incident would not be repeated in the trial farm in his barangay. Aside from the high walls, a watchtower and guard-houses would be built in the four corners of the trial farm. Morales said Monsanto would employ barangay residents as security guards of the trial farm backed by a civilian volunteers' organization. (PNA)
2. Bt cotton seed sellers face arrest
The Times of India November 23, 2001
NEW DELHI: A Gujarat court has issued arrest warrants against officials of the firm which is said to have sold transgenic cotton seeds to farmers without the mandatory permission from the Centre, say Union environment ministry officials pursuing a criminal complaint against the company. A two-man ministry team returned to Delhi Wednesday with this news. But the team could not meet state government officials - it was supposed to get feedback on the state's effort to implement a Central government order to procure the cotton crop still standing, process it, destroy the seed and store the lint, and retrieve what has reached the market, again destroying the seed and storing the lint. These orders came last month from the ministry's genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC), the lone sanctioning authority for even large-scale trials on GM crops. No GM crop has so far been authorised for commercial cultivation in India, with studies on environmental and health impacts yet to be completed. In this case, the company in question, Navbharat Seeds, did not even apply for any of the permissions needed, say officials. By all accounts, the state government doesn't seem to have got very far in retrieving this cotton, forcing ministry officials to admit most of the transgenic crop may not be recovered - and forcing them to look on this as an "educational" exercise. Nor has the environment ministry got feedback from any other state where the company is said to have sold the same seed - on the list are Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra.
3. India: NGO moves
The Hindu November 23, 2001
NEW DELHI, NOV. 22. Gene Campaign, an NGO claiming to work for protection of the country's bio-resources and farmers' rights, today moved the Delhi High Court seeking an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into how a genetically- engineered cotton seed called 'Navbharat 151' was clandestinely sold to the farmers in Gujarat. The petitioner saw a scam in it.
It submitted before a Division Bench of the High Court comprising the Acting Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Devinder Gupta, and Mr. Justice S.K. Kaul that the supplier company, Navbharat Seeds (P) Limited of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, would not have been able to sell the seed to thousands of farmers in the State without the connivance of the authorities concerned.
People came to know about the farmers sowing the seed in about 10,000 hectares of land in Gujarat when an economic daily reported about it last month. The farmers have since harvested the crop and the cotton has reached the market for sale despite the State Government asking the farmers to destroy the crop.
Environment experts and voluntary organisations, working for the protection of the farmers' rights from the attempts by the multinational corporations to enter into the Indian agriculture market, had alleged that the Navbharat must have sourced out the seed originally patented as Bt Gene Cotton by the American company Monsanto from the parent company, the petitioner said.
The Bench issued notices to the Union Government, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the Secretary, the Department of Bio-Technology of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology, and the company asking them to reply by January 9 why the petition should not be admitted.
Counsel for the petitioner, Mr. A.M. Singhvi, alleged that the illegal cultivation of the crop had resulted in serious environmental and health hazards. He further said that both the Union and the State Governments had failed to discharge their statutory duty of protecting the environment and public interest at large as the whole Bt Gene Cotton episode had brought to light the vulnerable conditions where environment, public health and food security were threatened.
Prima facie it seemed that the company had been able to sell the seed because of the inaction and apathy on the part of the authorities concerned in pursuance of what seemed to be a scam, the petitioner said. Mr. Singhvi said that the petitioner sought to bring to book the erring authorities and the company.
4. Centre direction to check out Bt cotton in state
The Times of India
November 23, 2001
PUNE: Already worried about the cultivation of transgenic cotton seeds in large areas of Gujarat, the Union government has sent a directive to the state agriculture commissionerate in Pune to check on the use of genetically modified seeds in the cotton belt of Maharashtra.
The Union environment ministry is apprehensive that the Bt cotton seeds may have also been sold in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, besides Punjab. While the state agriculture commissioner Vijay Kumar refused to discuss the Bt cotton controversy and its implications for Maharashtra, sources in the agriculture commissionerate confirmed that efforts were on to locate possible Bt cotton cultivation in the state. Incidentally, Shetkari Sanghatana leader Sharad Joshi, who has a considerable following in the cotton-growing region of Vidarbha, is fully in support of Bt cotton and has challenged the central government to destroy the controversial, genetically modified crop grown by farmers in Gujarat from seeds sold by the Ahmedabad-based Navbharat Seeds Limited.
Senior officials at the agriculture commissioner's office here, requesting anonymity, said the centre has actually sent a list of small agri-firms which are supposed to have received various quantities of Bt cotton seeds from Navbharat Ltd.
"The names of companies in Maharashtra which procured the transgenic seeds was obtained from the delivery challan book of Navbharat Ltd, Ahmedabad, during a recent scrutiny of the company's records," said a senior official. Almost 25 delivery orders have been recorded in the books of Navbharat Ltd. he added. Small seed supplying agencies and firms from Nagpur, Jalna, Jalgaon, Yavatmal, Khamgaon, Nandurbar and Dhule districts had purchased 5-10 packets of the transgenic cotton seed from the company, he said.
"The seeds were sold under the brand name 'Navbharat 151'. The farmers or the seed supplying agencies were not given any idea about the nature or characteristics of the transgenic seed, the agriculture official said. Incidentally, Navbharat Seeds Ltd. also has a branch in Jalna district.
The commissionerate here has asked its officials all over the state to visit the seed agencies listed in Navbhharat's challan book to check out the ground effect of the GM cotton crop. "Basically, officers will see the crop grown using Navbharat 151 seeds and report the positive or negative effect it has had on the yield and the fields," he said. All officers in the field have been asked to file their detailed reports by Friday, the official added.
5. Officials yet to cotton on to Bt cotton spectre
The Times of India
November 23, 2001
CHANDIGARH: As boll worm plays havoc with the cotton crop in Punjab, farmers in the state are more than eager to experiment with new varieties, including genetically-engineered Bt cotton. However, it is a possibility to which officialdom in the state has not waken up. A cross-section of farmers this correspondent spoke to, in Punjab's cotton- growing belt, were not aware of the genetically-modified crop but were more than willing to try out any new 'wonder seeds'. "Insecticides have proved totally ineffective against sundi (boll worm) and if some seed can hold against the pest, I would try it," says Jagtar Singh of Thandewala village in Muktsar district.
While his views are echoed by farmers from Chaudhra village, near Muktsar town, ignorance about the risks of using genetically-modified seeds reigns. But then, farmers can hardly be expected to understand how resistance is conferred on these seeds by means of toxic proteins, induced through genes from other organisms, such as Bacillus thuringiensis. Authorities in the state do not seem to have the expertise in protocols to detect genes like Cry1Ac, which conferred pest resistance on the controversial Navbharat 151 cotton variety in Gujarat. "We have a genetics lab here but not the necessary restriction enzymes needed to identify specific gene sequences in (genetically) engineered plants. We also do not have a database of such sequences," admits a senior professor of genetics at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana, the only institution in the state to have some expertise in such matters. On whether the state has taken any decision to avoid a situation where the Centre orders it to destroy the standing genetically-modified crop, as happened in Gujarat, Dr S S Marwaha, director (Biotechnology) at Punjab State Council for Science and Technology says, "The decision to ban or go ahead with the genetically modified crop has to come from the Centre. States have not been given any powers to take such decisions."
Off the record, officials frankly admit they have no institutionalised mechanism to find out if genetically modified seeds have been used in the state. "But it is unfair to blame us," says a a senior Punjab Agriculture department official desiring anonymity, "Tell me which state in the country has the expertise to detect the use of genetically modified seeds? In Gujarat, Bt cotton could be detected because there was a fight between rival companies, which prompted one of them to report to the government."
It is notable that the sequence of the NPTII gene and the Cry1Ac gene, to which the former is tagged for inducing production of toxin in the cotton plant, is also not known to scientists at PAU, making detection of genetically-modified cotton during random sampling unlikely.
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